Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Fat-tire festival on board for July

Pro and amateur racing, family entertainment could draw thousands in July

Express Staff Writer

A celebration of mountain biking—and the sometimes under-appreciated opportunities to experience the sport in the valley—will enliven the streets of Ketchum and nearby trails this summer, bringing professional racing, an in-town criterium and an expo full of new products.

The Ride Sun Valley Bike Festival, slated for July 11-17, aims to showcase the area's 400-plus miles of continuous single-track trails, plus local attractions.

Last year, Ketchum played host to the Rhythm & Ride Bike & Music Festival. This year, the focus is different.

"This is truly a mountain bike festival," said Greg Randolph, general manager of the Sun Valley Chamber of Commerce. "There will be a number of components."

The USA Cycling National Mountain Bike Championships, expected to bring 750 racers to the valley, should be a huge draw.

"We've never hosted a bike event of this caliber," Randolph said.

USA Cycling announced last summer that it had chosen the Ketchum-Sun Valley area to host the 2011 and 2012 mountain bike championships.

"That's really a great thing," Randolph said. "For having such amazing mountain biking here, we don't have a legacy event [or] a festival that goes along with it."

The Ride Sun Valley Local Stoker event, from July 13-16 or longer, depending on demand, will be geared toward getting people out on the trails. Event partner Mountain Rides will offer free shuttles to different trails.

"There'll be free accompaniment (on mountain bike rides) by locals who know the trails," Randolph said.

It's one thing to alert people to great rides, he said, but facilitating their outing and offering local guides provides "something of value."

The Fat Tire Criterium, scheduled for Thursday, July 14, will wend its way through downtown Ketchum. The short, technical course around the visitor center and Town Square will have professional and amateur categories, plus a "bonus category" for locals, Randolph said.

"It's a really tight, twisty course," he said. "It's super spectator-friendly."

A beer garden will be set up downtown to entice people to linger there.

"It'll be a great time for families to come out," Randolph said.

The Ride Sun Valley Expo, at the lower River Run parking area, will be open during the festival's duration. Cycling vendors from around the world will display new gear and goods for cycling enthusiasts. Scott Sports will be launching its 2012 mountain bike product line at the expo, Randolph said.

Organizers are still seeking sponsors and participants for the criterium and expo.

Rebecca Meany:

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